I am a first year associate in Biglaw. I have been put on an improvement plan to increase my billable hours. My supervisors have commented that have not been getting work because I need to improve my efficiency. I am willing to do what it takes to improve but wonder how to improve my hours when no one seems willing to give me a second chance.

like
Posting as :
works at
You are currently posting as works at

When I was a first year, I sensed a lot of pressure on me to eat my own hours (along with other first years). We would get instructions to do research but “don’t spend more than about an hour on it.” Even as a seasoned attorney now, many of those assignments could never have been completed in an hour. There were multiple parts to the problem. On one hand, partners don’t want a first year to go in the wrong direction down an irrelevant 10 hour westlaw hole, but in the other hand partners also abuse it to get free research for favored clients. That might be what you’re experiencing and, unfortunately, to make them happy you can’t turn in quicker, shoddier work. You might just have to bill two hours for something that actually takes you five. It’s unfair, but it’s the system. You will get faster.

like

I’m in the same boat

like

It has hard to say for sure without knowing more about the assignments, how long they took, what the partners expected, etc., so my post will speak more about the general realities of biglaw. It's up to you to take an honest look at the situation and figure out whether the criticism is truly justified. That caveat aside, I will say that biglaw is an unforgiving place and it is unfortunately common for partners to write off associates after a single perceived mistake or issue, at least if this issue arises early on in the relationship (i.e., in the first couple of assignments). Many will not give you second chances, particularly if your reputation precedes you. This is due to how firms are designed, as there are far more junior associates than needed future partners. I could write a lot more about this, but will try to keep it relatively short and say that you should keep two facts in mind about any big law firm: (1) whether it's admitted or not, you are in competition with other associates to advance, and (2) partners do not care about your career or you unless you give them reason to care. Keep that in mind and remember that the partners will be inclined to follow the path of least resistance, which is simply not helping you and instead giving work to other associates who have outcompeted in the eyes of the partnership. It is also unfortunately common for any criticism to not be relayed to the associate until a distant review, sometimes many review cycles after any issue arose. The internet is replete with stories of associates getting good review after good review only to get one review where every mistake and issue from the last 5 years is dragged out and put on the table for the first time, along with a not-so-subtle suggestion that the associate no longer has a future at the firm. I think you have experienced a shortened version of this given that your first review was good and you may have already been blackballed by the firm. Consider updating your resume and reflecting whether you want to try for an early lateral. I will also say that if you have any doubts about your practice area, it is far easier to change as a 1st/2nd year lateral than later on, so think about that, too.

likehelpful

wow this is so well put. Completely agree and have seen this pattern at multiple firms.

like

Are they saying you are taking too long to complete assignments? Have your assigning partners/senior associates given you clear deadlines and if so, are you able to meet them?

likesmarthelpful

I have been given deadlines. Most of the time I am capable of staying within them. My issue is likely with partners acting as foreign counsel, so that budgets are even tighter.

Have you had a frank conversation with your supervisors, acknowledging their feedback, letting them know you are working on your efficiency, and asking them directly to give you another chance to prove you can be more efficient? Do you have a supervisor or partner you can share your concerns with who can be an advocate for you to their colleagues?

like

Yes, but this is new feedback which has only recently been told to me through the talent management team. In my midyear assessment, I was given high marks and any comments about efficiency said that I was on par with expectations for a first year. While efficiency may be an issue, I dont know the people with whom it is an issue. So I am focusing on discussions with partners and senior associates who I have only worked for sporadically in order to get a second chance.

It’s pretty ridiculous that they are putting you through that now assuming your work has slowed with Covid. Partners grabbing it all up. Maybe that’s not your situation though?

like

I believe this is a big factor. It would save face for the partner to find a performance related issue which deflects from their loss of business. At this point, I have no choice but to work on what I can control, which is getting more efficient and seeking more work.

like

Related Posts

Hey folks! Hope everyone is safe and sound. Who is working on billable work and who is on the bench ?

like

I’m thankfully hitting my hours, but my firm keeps passing non-billable work my way. I am grateful for the opportunities, but this type of work always seems to find its way to the female associates at my firm. We have been told that non-billable work is irrelevant in terms of our annual hours. Any tips on how to navigate this in a thoughtful way? I want to be a team-player, but I believe that others need to step up to the plate.

like

What does your work schedule look like (roughly) if you are aiming for 1900 billable hours?

like

I'm finishing my first year as an associate in Minneapolis and am considering a move to Boston (originally from the East Coast). Can anyone in the area give some insight into general billable requirements, salaries, and quality of life as a young associate? Or just your experiences as Boston/NE attorneys. Thanks!

likehelpful

What are expected utilisation rates for entry level consultants? Been here 9 months and only done billable work for about 3 months of that. Bored out of my mind for the majority of my time here.

like

I just started as a first year associate at a firm that does not have any organized pro bono, however there is an “uncapped” billable hours policy that would allow me to apply pro bono to my hours requirement. How would you suggest I go about getting into pro bono work? It’s my understanding it’s not done much at my firm.

like

Anyone have slow months where you burn through a lot of your allotted pro bono/professional development hours to keep hitting minimum daily hours? The past few weeks have been like this for me. Should I be concerned (I.e., will this reflect poorly on me, come review time? Will I have dug myself too much of a hole if I keep burning my non-billable hours?) I’ve been asking partners if I can assist in any projects so I can fill my plate, but I’ve only gotten small (4-6 hour) tasks handed my way.

like

Switching consulting agencies atm. Currently I earn way below average at 42k€/p.a + car. Next week I am negotiating with another company wanting to employ me. I am actually bringing in a customer with a fixed 2 year project @ 1000€ all-in/day rate (5 billable days/week). What salary should I aim for - and what bonuses? I would love something around the market average of 65-75k is it realistic even though I am in my mid 20s?

like

Partner: I've been sitting on a request all week. You need to stop billable work and put together this deck today. And be quick about it. Cool? I thought so.

like

At my new job, we’re told to get 8 billable hours of work a day on our timesheet. Even when I thought I had a lot to work on, the most I could get was 5 hours. I’m super stressed about getting in trouble, even though I have actively asked for more work. I was unemployed for 9 months during this pandemic and I now I’m super afraid of losing my job again. Is this a normal practice? Idk how I’ll ever consistently have that much work.

like

I’ll be short of RSM’s billable hours goal of 1600 by around 300 hours by the end of fiscal year end. How fucked am I?

like

DC peeps- Where have you exited to that isn’t billable hours or government?

like

Does anyone know the billable hours goal for managers at EY?

likehelpfulfunny

What is it like to work as a real estate lawyer? I’ve done 4 years of plaintiffs personal injury, I’d like to try something new. Don’t want billable hours. Any thoughts? (Also other types of law suggestions are welcome)

like

Ah! If the clients ever realize the number of billable hours wasted on making slides just ‘look’ pretty!!!!

likefunny

So I have completely lost interest in my area of practice mainly because I haven’t been exposed to many matters (our team is really slow) and I am the most junior in the team. So billable work is never constant. I feel like this has impacted my interest and stagnated my growth. I am thinking of moving into a different area of practice like TMT or PE, that I’m interested in. Has anyone ever done this? I’m actually depressed and I really hate being given work now. I have ADHD. Please advise

like

First year here at midsize. What to do if I ask for work but none is given. the past few days I’ve had 1-3 billable hours too. Apparently it’s slow for some ppl. There was also some lay offs as well.. Wonder if I should also start looking at jobs now just in case.

like

People who work 50, 60, 70+ hours a week: how do you do that without putting your project over budget? Are your engagements written to have a resource work over 40+hours a week? Are you spending over 10-30 hours a week on added non billable time? What are y’all doing with all of that time?!

like

Do managers get raises based on their teams weekly billable hours?

like

I am thinking of switch from plaintiff side work to defense work in employment litigation. Has anyone made this switch? Did you regret? We’re billable hours too much to handle? More in comments.

like

Additional Posts

What’s the best way to get started freelancing? Just update my LinkedIn and start reaching out to recruiters? How did you figure out your day rate/hourly?

like

Howdy fish, currently interviewing at KPMG for a associate role in major projects advisory. I’ve gone through the phone screening and the interview with 2 directors. Next interview is with 2 SM. What kind of questions can I expect in that interview?

like

Would anyone that works in entertainment PR/Talent management/Entertainment marketing be willing to set up an informational interview with a graduating senior looking to learn more?

like

Clients spent 20 minutes during the middle of a meeting to shit on BCG for getting them laid off from their previous jobs. How's it feel to be the Bobs?

like

Comp range for Director of Strategy and Ops in CPG industry?

likefunny

I took a new role in a digital transformation (IT consulting) boutique and I'm beyond confused on my first project. They know i do not understand this stuff, but aside from looking at these slides and google searching literally every client data request document, what can I do?

like

Been on a project in Europe all year and I gotta say, my dating life has taken a big hit, going back and forth. Thinking of doing IJL (It's just lunch). Anyone have any experience with this?

Moving to San Diego in August...where should I live and why?

like

In South Philly, good spots to go out in the city? extra points for dives with groovy tunes

like

Does Sr consultant at Deloitte map more closely to a Sr associate role at Pwc or Manager?

funnylike

What are 🐠 favorite beaches to visit in the south east US? Bonus points for affordable places to stay

like

Welcome to all teachers who are already using or those just thinking about starting a writing workshop in their classrooms. This is the place to share your questions, answers, successes and challenges. I am a Teacher Consultant with the Indiana Writing Project and have used WW in my high school classrooms since 2009 and am always eager to learn more. Please join our conversation and share your best beginning of the year WW activities.

Hi folks, I’m wish to break into tech sales as marketer. Have got consultative, training and prospecting experience in my own business but need to get back to traditional work. I’m based in Toronto and interviewed with a US SaaS company recently, open to networking with anyone in this area over a virtual hang! If you’re part of any exclusive “women in sales” groups please offer me an invite!

EY- can vacation be taken in 4 hour increments? I want to take a half day one week because I need to leave out of town by 2p. Is that okay to charge 4 vaca and 4+ of other work?

like

Looking for a good United mileage run out of Denver. Strictly looking for PQMs, not segments. Anyone have any luck with something like this? Need about 20k PQMs to reach the next Premier level.

like

Applied to McKinsey via the referral portal. Been a week+ and haven’t heard back. Is it safe to realistically assume it will probably be a no?

like

Are PwC human capital salary bands aligned with advisory bands? I.e. does a manager in IFS make the same as one in management consulting?

like

What's going on with Facebook privacy practice hiring? A recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn. Has anyone here spoken to a recruiter yet? Or going through interview, TC conversations? Any insights will help!

like

How long does it take to hear from HR after technical interview for experienced candidates? Does cognizant send rejection/selection mail after technical round?

like

New to Fishbowl?

Download the Fishbowl app to
unlock all discussions on Fishbowl.
Download Fishbowl to see what others are saying
That was just a preview…
Sign Up to see all discussions
  • Discover what it’s like to work at companies from real professionals
  • Get candid advice from people in your field in a safe space
  • Chat and network with other professionals in your field
Sign up in seconds to unlock all discussions on Fishbowl.

Already a user?
Login here

Share

Embed this post

Copy and paste embed code on your site

Preview

Download the Fishbowl app

Get realtime notifications and see
what's happening in your industry
from the palm of your hand.